Tommy Palm, the former “games guru” of Candy Crush developer King, is playing with his phone. However, it’s not a match-3 puzzle game like the ones the Swedish mobile game company became famous for. Palm is using his phone with a VR headset and playing the new game he and his team developed for the Gear VR. He is sitting in his office at Resolution Games, in a quiet neighborhood of Stockholm, along with a dozen experienced game developers that have been working only on VR games for the last three months. The first one is a solitaire game.
The simplicity of this flies in the face of what we expect from our vaunted VR future, but there’s precedent for it. The first version of Windows that added a Solitaire game was Windows 3.0 in 1990. It was used as a way to teach people how to make simple movements with a mouse, like dragging and dropping. Since then, Microsoft has shipped most of its operating systems with the game and it has become a popular distraction for everyone with a PC. However, on the recent Windows 10, Solitaire is no longer free; users will have to pay $1.50 each month to remove video ads.
Palm is tapping into this, with his new company Resolution Games, with Solitaire Jester: it’s a great approach for newcomers to learn how things work in VR. When the game begins we appear in our private library where a jester sits on the desk. We can also see the cards dealt in front of us, in the air, inviting us to play. As Solitaire for Windows 3.0 taught us how to use the mouse for dragging and dropping cards, in Solitaire Jester we use our gaze to select the one we would like to use, and after capturing our attention for some seconds it automatically goes to the place it has to go. There is not a time limit, only a jester smiling at us while we think.
Many current VR games aim to recreate the spectacle of modern, big-budget games, but Solitaire Jester seems like the casual type of game that we could find on mobile phones. During the Games Developers Conference 2015, Oculus’ Technology Director John Carmack mentioned that there are two possible ways for VR: high-end VR experiences and mobile VR. “You got your home PC setup and you can invite your friends over to come down and see your VR cave and it’s amazing, but Gear VR can go with you on vacation,” he said. Mobile VR could be the easiest way for people to try this new technology and serve as a gateway to the higher-end VR systems like the Oculus Rift, the Sony Morpheus or the HTC Vive.
Resolution Games started as VR company focused on this mission of accessibility. They are now working on seven new prototypes and their next release in the horizon is a fishing-themed game. Its recent funding by Google Ventures suggests that mobile VR will be at the forefront of the VR rise, as anyone with a smartphone has a potential VR experience in their pockets. Casual games could be the key that everyone is looking for, at once making all the VR hype a reality and adding another chapter of the casual revolution.
You can play Solitaire Jester for free on the Samsung Gear VR from the Oculus VR Store.